The technologies of the visual workplace represent a discrete set of methods, tools, and visual outcomes that comprehensively convert the physical environment into a visual one. Though many of these technologies will be familiar to you, what may be new is thinking about them as a single line logic and an integrated framework that shares a common purpose: to share vital information about the task at hand at-a-glance, without speaking a word—in short, to let the workplace speak. And that outcome succeeds most completely if that workplace has created a workforce of visual thinkers—a workforce of Is, individuals on every organizational level who have learned how to think visually.
In line with that, visual workplace technologies are a progression—a continuum of visual information of sharing—that I group into a series I call: The Ten Doorways. With each doorway having a distinct owner and purpose, their collective outcome is a fully-functioning visual workplace. At Visual Thinking Inc., we use the Ten Doorways, first, to diagnose the current level of visual competency in an organization and, second, as a roadmap for helping that company improve its level of visual competency.
Each doorway links to a specific employee group (that doorway’s owner), responsible for opening that door in order to develop an associated category of visual function—a visual outcome—for the enterprise. The group in charge of a door takes the lead in applying a specific visual method and is held accountable for its effective application.
In no sense does this mean other groups of employees are barred from the visual process of a given doorway. On the contrary, everyone and anyone can contribute—and often does. Doorway owners, however, are responsible for ensuring that its category of visual function is implemented and actively making its contribution to the corporate intent.
Let me name the owners and walk you through the doorways, the first six of which represent a set of six core visual methods.
- Doorway 1: Operators own and implement 5S/the visual where—what I prefer to call: 5S on Steroids/Work That Makes Sense.
- Doorway 2: Engineers, managers, and supervisors are responsible for visual standards: making sure technical and procedural standards are accurate, complete, and known—and available in a visual format.
- Doorway 3: Supervisors, planners, and managers develop visual displays and visual scheduling boards in order to address their own need-to-know about vital daily operational challenges.
- Doorway 4: Executives embrace visual leadership—ensuring measures are visually in place, visual problem-solving is active and effective in day-to-day work—and visual mechanisms are in place to ensure their effective leadership (core set of five).
- Doorway 5: Managers, supervisors, planners, and materials handlers put visual pull systems in place for the timely, unobstructed flow of materials and finished goods through operations.
- Doorway 6: Quality staff and engineers teach and coach the spread of visual guarantees: mistake-proofing devices that ensure excellent quality outcomes, based on highly reliable poka-yoke devices.
In Doorway 7, the above six core visual methods are applied to the machine, led by the maintenance staff: the result is a machine that speaks/The Visual Machine®. Doorway 8 applies those same six core methods to admin and other office functions and a Visual-Lean® Office is created. Doorway 9 calls for a Visual Macro Team to develop visual linkages between organizational functions. Doorway 10 targets the advanced outcome of spreading high-functioning visuality across multiple sites and throughout the supply chain through the Visual Exam/Matrix process.
In this week’s issue of The Visual Thinker, I have outlined the central organizing model of my approach to workplace visuality: The Ten Doorways. In following issues, I’ll develop each doorway so you can better understand how it works, why it is specifically important, and where it fits in the overall purpose of visuality: creating a workforce of visual thinkers.